Food Standards Scotland answers some frequently asked questions on food and drink in Scotland in relation to Brexit. If you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, please send any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
These answers are supplied on the basis of the available information in relation to Brexit and its possible implications at time of writing.
Food Standards Scotland’s priority continues to be to work to protect consumers’ interests and to maintain the high food standards we currently enjoy and rightly expect.
- What happens to food law after Brexit?
- Will food still be safe after Brexit?
- Will there be food shortages because of Brexit?
- If the majority of food law comes from the EU, what will happen if the UK leaves without a deal?
- After Brexit, will we be eating chlorinated chicken?
- I’m worried about animal welfare standards going down after Brexit.
- How will food safety be assessed after Brexit?
- What will happen to FSS after Brexit? How is FSS preparing for the challenges ahead?
The majority of food law currently comes from the EU and has served us well for many years. We’ve been working with the Scottish and UK Governments to make sure the same legal standards and regulations apply to food should the UK leave the EU without a deal.
This has involved a lengthy and complex process to implement ‘statutory instruments’ (legislation) bringing existing EU laws over into UK law so that there is a smooth transition, and that standards applied in the EU are carried over to the UK.
Regardless of the Brexit outcome, Food Standards Scotland’s priority will continue to be to protect consumers and make sure that food is safe and of the high standard we currently enjoy and expect. A significant amount of work has already gone in to making sure that the controls in existing EU food law, that currently provide us with a high level of protection, will continue to operate effectively after Brexit.
We are also making sure we have the people, skills and experience in the organisation to ensure we are as ready as we can be for the things that may happen as a result of leaving the EU, particularly if the UK leaves without a deal, including a possible increase in food safety incidents and instances of food crime.
We have the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit within Food Standards Scotland which is here to detect and investigate food crime, and where necessary assist with the prosecution of criminals.
Food Standards Scotland has also been playing a key role contributing to the wider Scottish Government preparations for Brexit and we continue to work collaboratively with UK Government Departments and other devolved administrations to join up across the UK where appropriate.
Maintenance of the food supply chain and evidence concerning potential food shortages is outwith our remit. However we are supporting others within government who have the lead for this issue, by for example providing advice on the safe storage of foods and the correct use of date codes. More information on food shortages can be found here.
Food Standards Scotland has been working behind the scenes for several months with Scottish Ministers and the Food Standards Agency, Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, there will continue to be functioning laws in place.
This will make sure that food is regulated in the same way as it is at present if we leave without a deal from day one.
If, on the other hand, the UK leaves the EU with a deal in place, it is anticipated there will be a transitional period during which current EU law will continue to apply.
Scotland and the rest of UK are currently subject to EU food safety laws. Until the UK leaves the EU, any substances, such as chlorine washes, used to remove surface contamination on poultry, meat or fish must be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before they can be approved for use in the UK and the rest of Europe.
EFSA has concluded that the use of chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite and peroxy acids on poultry carcasses under specific conditions would not be of concern from a public health perspective. However, none of these substances has been approved for use in the EU. Only drinking water can currently be used to wash poultry carcasses in EU countries.
Should any requests be made to change existing food law, a well-established risk assessment process which considers any potential public health risk alongside other legitimate factors, such as animal welfare, public acceptance, economic impact and cultural concerns, will be applied as appropriate. Find out more here.
Food Standards Scotland has been preparing for the implications of Brexit since 2016. This includes ensuring that the high proportion of FSS Official Vets who come to us from other parts of the EU continue to be able to work with us. These highly qualified and skilled individuals provide a vital service ensuring animal welfare and food safety in Scottish abattoirs and slaughterhouses.
Over 42.5 million cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry were slaughtered in Scotland last year*. All instances of animal welfare breaches are investigated and measures put in place to prevent their repeat where necessary. Food Standards Scotland publishes all animal welfare non-compliances detected on our website quarterly.
Food Standards Scotland is part of the Scottish Livestock Welfare working group, where animal welfare and enforcement information is shared and immediate action is taken, if required. This group comprises Scottish Government, Food Standards Scotland, Quality Meat Scotland, the Animal & Plant Health Agency, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Scottish local authorities
* From the period 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 – 459,477 cattle, 1,158,199 sheep, 339,553 pigs and 40,580,246 poultry were slaughtered in Scotland.
The current position is that food and feed safety assessment in Scotland and the rest of UK is carried out by the European Food Safety Authority, and this will continue until such time as the UK leaves the EU
In the event of a no deal Brexit, applications for new foods, ingredients and food production processes would be risk assessed through a robust UK system, similar to the one operated in the EU at the moment. Protecting public health is central to this approach, and recommendations for Scottish Ministers to consider will be based on robust and up-to-date science and evidence of both any public health risk and other legitimate factors such as public acceptance, economic impact and cultural concerns.
Leaving the EU doesn’t change our primary focus: protecting the interests of consumers in Scotland in relation to food and drink. Everything we do is aimed are making sure food is safe and is what it says it is on the label. We also have a big role to play in helping consumers make healthier food choices, and we will carry on focusing on these aims regardless of if and how the UK leaves the EU.
Like the rest of the UK, FSS is as prepared for Brexit as we can be. We have the people and plans in place to continue to deliver whatever scenario unfolds.